It doesn’t matter if we ‘live to work’ or ‘work to live’; when it comes down to it, work is our life, or at least it is if we’re lucky enough to have full-time work. So rather than just thinking about how much money it earns us or whether we feel challenged enough, it’s important to think about how our work is affecting our health. It’s time to ask: does your job work with your health, or against it?
As a country, we’re pretty hot on working long hours, putting in longer shifts than ever before. This can mean we have more disposable cash, but researchers have also noted the effect that working fifty or more hours each week is having on our health, and it’s not pretty reading. Issues such as high-stress levels, depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes can all develop from working too much. It’s a double fold problem: on the one hand, if we’re working long hours then we will have more responsibility, which means more stress. At the same time, we don’t have enough hours in the day to other things we enjoy, the things that allow us to relax and de-stress.
A Sedentary Lifestyle
In the old days, a person would wake early, walk to work, and then use their bodies as part of their job. This isn’t the case anymore. Instead, people are living sedentary lives, and not getting enough exercise. It’s entirely possible for a person to drive to their offices’ parking garage, take a lift up to their floor, and then sit down for seven hours, before doing the same process in reverse when they go home. If this sounds familiar to you, then look at ways to inject more movement into your day, such as parking a mile away from your office, taking the steps, and taking regular breaks away from your seat throughout the day.
In the Office, At the Computer
An office is more dangerous than people realize. While most people think that injuries in the workplace only occur in those obviously dangerous professions, such as factories, this is the not case. If you work with a computer, then you’re at high risk of RSI (repetitive strain injury) and eye strain. To combat RSI, warm up your wrist before using the computer, make sure you’re sitting upright, and learn how to type correctly. To limit the effects of eye strain, use the 20/20/20 rule, which is the act of staring at a point twenty feet away, for twenty seconds, every twenty minutes.
Working at Home
It’s not just in an office environment where people’s health is at risk. While many people think that people who work from home have a pretty good deal, they’re more prone to mental and physical conditions than those who work in an office. If you work from home, it’s important that you take steps to offset these negative aspects.
For example, go for a walk each morning: it’ll function as your “commute” and get some fresh air in your lungs. Also, make sure that you don’t work where you relax, have a cut off time when you switch off the computer and join social groups so you can speak to other people when all your other friends are at work.
Long Term Effects
It’s not just when we’re working that we need to think about how it affects us. In many ways, the actual health effects of work are felt after we’ve left the working world altogether, in retirement. If you’re approaching your retirement age, it’s important that you think about how you’ll make the transition to your new lifestyle.
Loneliness, a sense of worthlessness, and decreased activity can all have a damaging effect on our health in retirement. Before you leave your job, make sure you’re picking up new hobbies and joining social groups to keep these things from happening.
Focusing on the Positive Aspect
We’ve talked a lot about the harmful effects of work, but before everyone decides to give up their job, it’s important that we think about the positive aspects, too. Studies have shown that workers are healthier, happier, and live longer than unemployed people, for instance. It’s crucial to our mental well-being, providing us with a solid framework in which to grow self-esteem and achieve our goals, too.
In all, there’s no definite answer to whether work is good or bad for your health. It’s about finding the challenges it poses to your well-being and then finding ways to overcome them.